on language

A few weeks ago, putting together my personal ad (remind me to post it here), I got to thinking about the words we use to describe the shapes of our bodies, and how they end up saying more about us than we intended. On the dating site, I want to describe my body flatteringly but honestly, but in choosing one of the options given for body type, I’m also saying something about how I view myself.

On the dating site I use, my choices are: “ample,” “athletic,” “average,” “Rubenesque,” “a little extra padding” and “slim/petite.” I chose ample, because I like the way it conjures images of generosity and lusciousness. It means more than enough. It’s very positive. I hope it says both that I am fat and that I am not apologizing for it. On other sites, I’ve weighed the merits of “heavyset,” “big and beautiful,” “curvy” and “full-figured,” none of which resonates with how I feel about myself and my body.

“Big and beautiful,” in particular, doesn’t work for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. I mean, sure, I don’t always think I’m beautiful, but it’s not the braggadocio that I object to… it’s the whole image that is conjured up by the description. When I think of “big and beautiful” or “BBW” (“big beautiful woman” – a very common description among plus-sized ladies on the dating scene) , I think of women who are more feminine than me, more extravagantly and provocatively dressed. Just google “BBW” to see what I mean.

“Fat,” too, is a new way of describing myself, and in using it I am saying to the world that I don’t accept its negative connotations. Calling myself fat is the same as calling myself tall (I’m 5’11”) or blue-eyed: just a description of my physicality, not a judgment on my character or even my attractiveness.

I understand, though, that not everyone sees it that way. If I were to describe myself as fat in some circles, the people around me would rush to my rescue – “No, you’re not fat!”, “Don’t say that about yourself!”. In others, eyes would shift awkwardly, wishing I hadn’t mentioned it. And I play along with other people who avoid the “f word,” describing them and others we encounter as “chubby,” “bigger,” or “plus-sized.”

I don’t really have a conclusion to come to here. I’ve just been musing on these things for a while now and thought I would get them down on paper before something else caught my attention. Anyone out there have any favorite – or least favorite – ways of describing themselves? Any other fat daters out there coping with some of these same questions?

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6 responses to “on language

  1. I like the term you have picked. Ample (and ‘abundant’) has good, robust connotations.

    I think of fat as a neutral descriptor – and chubby also. Plus-sized is a bit dull, big or large aren’t really specifically descriptive enough to be

    useful for identification purposes. Although, ‘big’ is the term I use to try to make others comfortable.

    I would not object to you claiming the term BBW because I would have to agree that you are big (well, relative to your average supermodel),
    beautiful and a w.o.m.a.n!

    However, personally, generically, I don’t like the term BBW. I don’t like the genericising of the word ‘beautiful’ to apply to all fat women, although

    I recognise that there is something beautiful about every fat woman. But there’s something a bit sacred about the term ‘beautiful’, it should be
    individually applied. I also don’t like someone else telling me they are beautiful, I like to discover it for myself. Plus it sounds kinda defensive. “I am pretty dammit!” Stomp! Stomp!

    And yeah, those ‘internet connotations’ – I associate it with either fat girl porn (in which case it reminds me of sleazy men refering to the ‘lovely ladies’) or with fat women who take an ‘anti-glamour’ stance. Not that I don’t value something in either of those options (the former only when the fat girl clearly has agency / subjectivity), but I don’t really identify with them.

    Overweight and obese are objectifying terms that have moral judgement painted all over them. Imagine if a dating site had ‘morbidly obese’ as a self-descriptor option. Perhaps I would pick it – it’s time to subvert another troll insult into something positive.

    Zaftig and Rubenesque are OK. However, I think the latter should only be used when someone does literally have the body and style of a girl from

    a Ruebens painting (from your pictures, you could probably use this term – you seem to have that soft complexion).

    Last time I was on the dating scene (I have given up! For the time being) the primary local dating service had only one option for fat people – ‘large-ish’ – which I found awful. I wasn’t sure if it implied that truly large people (unambivalent about their largeness) should not be dating, that they should be ambivalent about admitting to it or … what?

    I like ‘big mama’ too – it has abundance connotations as well.

    Good luck on your follow-up date this week! I look forward to following your adventures :)

  2. For some reason although I also find “rubenesque” a flattering description, I don’t think it pertains to me, and “ample” conveys something both accurate, adorable, and secure. I feel like to be authentically rubenesque I’d have to have cleavage and long artful spiral curls for some reason. My favorite description for my weight has always been “plush”.

  3. Oh, I definitely think “Rubenesque” is positive… it’s just not how I’d describe myself!

  4. You know, a long time ago, I checked the “voluptuous” box on an online dating site. I met a guy and he chided me for checking it. Apparently, you’re expected to lie and check one size below what you actually are. So “average” becomes slightly overweight (more or less me), “athletic” means flat-chested, and “voluptuous” means HUGE. Ugh.

    If possible, I check nothing and let the pictures do the talking for me.

  5. Pingback: testing, testing: datingcurves.com « Fat Girl on a Date

  6. reformed grammar nazi

    isn’t it degrading
    to be reduced to the answer
    on a multiple choice test

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